The Ontario educator fulfilled a decades-long dream of rebuilding his childhood school in Nigeria

A retired London teacher and deputy principal is traveling to his native Nigeria this week for the reopening of his childhood primary school.

Liz Akano runs a nonprofit called Educate the Children, where she has been raising money for nearly two decades to rebuild the school.

“I came home to visit my home country of Nigeria and my village, and the primary school I attended as a little girl was horrific. Roofs leaked, walls caved in, floors flooded, no desks, no chairs. Students carried their desks over head when they went to school,” Akano recalled of her 2003 visit.

Liz Akano starts a non-profit organization. (Sent)

“It made me cry like I couldn’t believe it, and I didn’t know it was still in use until I saw students walk into this school.”

That visit became the trigger for Didik Anak, which she founded in 2005. Since then, Akano has raised enough money to rebuild the school, with 16 classrooms and 12 cubicle bathrooms. The new school will serve around 450 students.

With the classroom block completed, Akano said next year they will start the foundations for the administration block which will be home to the future library.

Rendering of the Ugbele-Akah National School restoration project.
Rendering of the Ugbele-Akah National School restoration project. (Liz Akano)

A legacy that drives the achievement of black students

During his career on the Thames Valley District School Board, Akano was an advocate for the success of black students. He started the Association of Black Students at the schools he worked for, including Sir Wilfred Laurier High School and Saunders High School. He said there were now seven Black Student Associations on the Thames Valley council, which were instrumental in encouraging students to pursue post-secondary education.

Akano is also the organizer of London’s first black student conference, which saw more than 230 black students gather on 31 May this year to talk about their personal challenges and hear from community leaders about furthering their education.

Afternoon Drive8:51Black Excellence Awards London winner, Liz Akano

Afternoon Drive host Allison Devereaux talks with Liz Akano, a long-time teacher recognized at the 2022 Black Excellence Awards. Anko is opening a school in her hometown of Nigeria later this month.

Akano was awarded the Humanitarian Award at the Black Excellence Awards on December 10 for her work on high school programs and founding Educate Children.

This grandmother of 11 will be present for the reopening of schools in Nigeria on Thursday, 29 December.

“I can’t wait to see the faces of those students and teachers and members of the community,” he said.

Students gather outside the Ugbele-Akah National School in Nigeria.
Students gather outside the Ugbele-Akah National School in Nigeria. (Liz Akano)